National Evaluation of Correctional Education

In support of the Second Chance Act of 2007, the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) awarded a cooperative agreement to the RAND Corporation to evaluate and improve educational methods for incarcerated adults and juveniles. The RAND Corporation—a nationally recognized non-partisan, non-profit public policy think tank— conducted this study in partnership with the Correctional Education Association (CEA), a non-profit professional association serving educators and administrators who provide services to students in correctional settings. The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Vocational and Adult Education (OVAE) served as a project advisor.

  • Education for Incarcerated Juveniles

    Jul 3, 2018

    Because youth typically cannot attend their local schools while incarcerated, correctional facilities must provide alternative education. This meta-analysis aims to help policymakers understand what works in juvenile correctional education.

  • Does Providing Inmates with Education Improve Postrelease Outcomes?

    Jul 3, 2018

    A meta-analysis of 37 years of research on correctional education found that found that inmates who took part in education programs were 28 percent less likely to re-offend as inmates who did not, but had the same chance of obtaining post-release employment.

See all project publications

Project Goals

The study's primary goals were to:

  • Examine the changing landscape in which educational programs are provided to incarcerated adults and juveniles.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of correctional education programs.
  • Identify innovative strategies that show promise in educating incarcerated adults and juveniles within a changing correctional environment.

To address these aims, RAND undertook an array of research activities, including a systematic literature review and meta-analysis of primary research on correctional education programs for incarcerated adults, a 2013 survey of state correctional education directors, and an in-depth review of the literature for correctional education programs for juveniles. The project has produced a series of publications that:

  • Present the results of a meta-analysis about the effectiveness—and cost-effectiveness—of correctional education programs in reducing recidivism and improving post-release employment outcomes for incarcerated adults
  • Highlight key findings from the literature on the effectiveness of correctional educational programs for juveniles
  • Present the results of a 2013 survey of correctional education directors summarizing what correctional education looks like today and describing the changing landscape for these programs, including the impact of the 2008 recession on these programs
  • Provide recommendations to improve our understanding of the effectiveness and role of correctional education programs, as well as a roadmap for building on the gains made to date in educating incarcerated individuals to improve their chances of success upon release.

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